Sunday, November 14, 2010
Last night, I went back to my roots, my origin, my native, the place where my words first caught that fire of attention and the promise of ambition. Last night, I returned to my primal mission: POETRY.
Readings are something I once did frequently, before little magazines, publication and noveldom intervened and became a part of my immediate scene. Readings can be extremely cool when you get into the head-groove of them.
For this event, I wanted to give my drummer some... but my drummer was giving me nothing, but drama. I called. No word. I left messages. No reply. It was looking like I'd be reading all by my lonesome.
See, my drummer, Abdul, can truly play. This cat slaps skins and takes you back to those days of Nubian warriors being welcomed home to their villages. I mean, when this cat plays, he takes you away on the wings of a rhythm.
But Abdul was busy playing the cool mute who was not computing my messages.
So, I rolled, stag, Metro style, got on my train, and tried to breathe in smoooove easy waves, going over my lines, mentally clocking my timing, as the train soon made its next stop... and… BAM! The last cat who boarded was lugging a huge conga. Ah yes! The Drama's over. That last cat's my bwoi, Abdul! Now, I feel as if I can spit! We give each other dab. We riff and we rap, and we’re ready to make our poetic attack, and get that party started correctly.
The place, the spot, the den, the boite was this joint in lower Connecticut. It was done up in cool retro café-style, where along the brick walls lay black and white snaps and posters of cats, chicks and poetic deities like: Ginsberg, Kerouac, The Beats and dem, Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Jayne Cortez and Nikki Giovanni, just to name a few.
Like always, I‘m a bit fritzed, a bit frazzled with frenetic nerves and energy. Abdul? He was just maxin and relaxin with a cool-azz lounge.
The show began, precisely at 8:30PM. And like, Whoa! From the jump, I was stoked, I was hooked.
That stage was the breeding ground of some fiercely hot mad talented spoken word artists, all finessing and flowing, all verbing and vibing with ratta-tat-tat ballistic styles, poeting on serious issues and kickin' this mad powerful shit.
I sit and I listen, and soon become an enthralled and enthusiastic member of this poetic marathon.
But suddenly, I feel small and unworthy. I feel all fake and fraudulent. Me... with my frail-azz phonics, seriously considering just vacating that place.
I was sixth in line. This fifth chick was doing her slick linguistically rich mad urban mama drama monologue, complete with high-pitched SCREAMS and shit... and I felt the intensity of this maddening nerve thing, this swerving-in-my-belly thing combined w/ this frog-in-my-throat thing, the semi-freak-out-just-beneath-my-skin thing... mixed with that I don't think I can cope with this whole judgment thing!
Gawd! I hate that feeling!
But it was way too late to do anything-- other than to breathe, yo... just breathe in easy in waves. Breathe baby. Breathe with me!
Then, the MC, Zeke, 'The Vociferous Puerto Reek' cat was back at the mic, and he was loudly introducing ME.
Abdul went on first. He set his mighty congas in place. Then, some invisible hand (God?) pushed, nudging me forth and I followed behind him.
Inside the high-yellow glow of a single bright spot, I stepped to the mic, cleared my throat, hoping something other than a croak, or smoke emits, but I KNOW it's Show-time, dammit!
Nerves, be gone, yo! You on, yo! Madness, begone! Yo Lin! You KNOW you can do this, yo!
And so, I did it. I spit, I riffed, I waxed, I poeted and, yes, I lyricized:
We act the mack, the clown, the hack.
We act, we wax, all hip and romantic.
We act as if
We act coy
We act shy
We act cool
We act fly
We act lies
And half truths
In that quest to
We act happy
When we’re sad
We act calm
When we’re mad
We act slick
& get tricked
By our own
Acting bag. “
And Abdul’s right behind me, keeping his steady rhymic beat. BOOM-CHA-BOP, BOOM-CHA BAM! BOOM-CHA-BOP, BOOM-CHA-BAM. Am I master of this verbal domain? Oh, yes, mos def, I am, mane! I am cool groit… and street-battered soul. Yes, yes, yo! Yes, yes, yo! I am truth-bringer and metaphor slinger. Yes, yes, yo. Check me out, yo!
And the words and drums all merged, so fluidly, so beautifully.
Shoulders moved. The room too became fluid, yes, fluid like me, like he, like us, like we.
And I’m gazing into this amazing sea of faces, eyes all attentive. They are feeding me waves of affirmation!
People are nodding their heads, yo. People were feeling my vibe, my stee-lo. And me? I’m testifying most tenaciously. I am in my zone. I am feeling alive! I am fi-yah and sometimes, I am ice. I am all this unleashed anger and hushed sensitivity. I am a poet, dammit! A poet, in his own rightful element! When a poet's busy poeting, he or she ain’t sweatin’, ain’t stressin’ about shit!
I am on, yo! I am a drum, and a beat. A voice and a flow.
And then… before I knew it, my flow was done. The jig was up. Finis. WTF!? Where had the time gone? Had I riffed too fast, or gone on too long? Had I said too much, or not quite enuff?
But people were clapping—clapping kinda loudly-- and I could feel the love. Zeke, The Vociferous Puerto Rican cat was stepping my way. I guess I was done. I'd read four poems, and it felt like four seconds!
That's the whole trip of this live performance thing. You dread it, up until that very moment, then you're on. Then, once the words come… it seems nothing and no one can stop you. You're a train, zooming, full-speed, a loco locomotive, with one mission, one motive and that is-- to be heard.
And for all the nerves, the highs and lows, I highly recommend it. Take it from one who knows: you'll *never* forget the ride.
Poetry readings can transform me from a reasonably shy and mellow guy into this whole other cat with an arsenal of words, thoughts, actions, verbs, and whole other swerve in my sway. No longer just another cat, stalking the stage in head to toe black, but something dangerous, like a panther, yo! Yes, a panther, in mid-pounce…
Last night, it was big-ups, kisses and embraces, and props of: "you the shit, yo!"
And tonight, it'll be back to work again, back to my lot, back to people placing orders and taking me for granted again. Back to me being this ace-mixologist, this writer wannabe, this part-time poet, with a semi-secret life.
But for one too brief moment, I was fire, baby! FiYAH, I say! Just wish y'all coulda seen me, burn.